01/27/2014 04:45 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

As You Prepare for the Big Game, Remember -- Your Children Are Watching

John Rowley via Getty Images

Written by Jan Cloninger

I'm one of those sports fans who only gets interested when the playoffs are near. So I rarely attend a live game. But my son was in town and he's a full season sports fan, so it was fun attending one of the last games of the regular NFL season with him.

I couldn't help but notice the number of parents attending with their young children and I wondered what the takeaway was for many of those kids. Don't get me wrong; I think it's great when parents and children share activities together. I'm simply suggesting that sometimes parents may want to step back and observe what they are modeling for their children and determine if those messages are what they really want to be sending.

The family next to us was made up of a dad and his two sons -- one a teen, the other around 10 years old. The dad seemed like a pretty nice guy. He had brought his sons to the game, explained some of the plays as the game progressed and appeared pleased that he could share this experience with his sons.

The younger son spent most of his time playing his video game -- except when his father was yelling at the field. Then the boy would look up and mimic exactly what his father was saying. It was particularly noticeable when the home team fans disagreed with a call on the field. The barrage of comments and boo's filled the stadium even though it was clear on the big screen instant replay that the ref's call had been right. The boy hadn't even seen the play and was joining in on the chorus right behind his dad.

As the game progressed, the group of young men a few rows behind us grew progressively louder and included a good amount of obscenities in their comments (which may or may not have been tied to their beer intake). Yet no one suggested to the young boy beside me that perhaps they were being inappropriate in a public setting.

At one point in the game, the dad left to get refreshments. Within seconds, the older boy was teasing and poking at his younger brother and the younger one was retaliating with his own very strong, harsh words. Sibling rivalry? Or were they mimicking what they'd seen exhibited by their dad and so many of the adults around them? I don't have that answer.

Every family has to decide for itself where the line is on these kinds of topics (berating referees who are doing their job; yelling obscenities in public; verbal and physical jabs among the siblings) and I'm not suggesting that mine should be yours.

But I am suggesting that parents might want to tune into the messages that they are giving or exposing their children to. You may want to just kick back and have fun, but our children are watching us no matter what venue we're in. And they learn far more from what we model than anything we can ever try to teach with our words.

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